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Let’s face it – when it comes to beauty, a lot of women are willing to try new things, whether that’s a new face mask, night cream or lipstick. But with this comes the threat of being targeted by online beauty ‘offers’ that aren’t quite what they seem. In this blog, we’ll take you through what happened to one woman who ordered beauty samples online and how to avoid being caught up in a scam like this.

Online beauty offers

The Daily Mail highlighted the story of one woman who was duped by an online beauty scam. The woman clicked onto an advert from another site and saw that a free trial for one 15ml pot of Clearly Young Serum and another 30ml pot of Youth Cream was being offered.

Even though the advert stated that they were free samples, the cost of the postage and packaging had to be paid for by the customer, which in this case came to £8.92. The woman decided to put an order through and the face creams arrived in a clear bag and unaccompanied by any paperwork. She tried them and was disappointed with the results – but as far as she was concerned, that was the end of it.

This wasn’t to be the case however, as two weeks later she saw that a further two payments of £75.95 and £79.95 had been taken out of her account. It would seem that this woman had unknowingly signed up for a continuous payment authority when she opted into this ‘free’ trial.

A continuous payment authority is legal, and means that companies can take money from your account at periodic intervals – they’re typically used for ongoing subscriptions like a magazine, or gym membership. When a continuous payment authority is being taken out, it should be made clear in the terms and conditions of the offer but as these can be long and tedious, many customers don’t read them properly and simply agree.

This is made worse by the fact that these scam companies don’t tend to send out paperwork with the sample, leaving customers unaware of what they’ve agreed to. When they do, the dodgy companies make it increasingly hard to get in touch with them, with many refusing to respond to correspondence or have proper phone lines.

What you can do

The saving grace when signing up to a continuous payment authority is that under the 2009 Payment Services Regulation, your bank has to cancel one if you ask them to. You don’t even have to notify the company involved to do this.

Once this is done, you can ask your bank for a refund if you paid for services that you didn’t receive or didn’t agree to. You have 120 days (roughly 4 months) from when the money comes out of your account to request this. The bank should refund you promptly and they’ll then set about trying to get the money back from the retailer.

Scams like these are increasingly being targeted at older people, who may be less familiar with the trappings of the web. If you have parents who are just getting used to using the internet, make sure that they’re aware of what to look out for. The main thing to remind them of is that if it looks too good to be true, it usually is!

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